So it seems everyone has posted DIY mercury glass projects. What could be different about mine? Well, I wanted colored mercury glass. These votive candle holders I photographed in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe were the inspiration:
This is the famous church with a spiral staircase built by a mysterious man who disappeared, after building a spiral staircase that has no known means of support. It’s a popular tourist spot in Santa Fe. This photo of the chapel’s votives reminds me how much I love the rich repetition of the red and copper colors – this picture has stuck in my mind all year since March!
So, I made similar mercury glass votive holders. And I’m so excited to share this DIY with you! Because it’s super easy to make colored mercury glass, easier than I thought it would be.
Here’s how you can make it yourself …
Supplies to Make Colored Mercury Glass
- Clear glass. I used nine chunky square glass votive holders. You can use any glass as long as it has a big enough opening so you can paint the inside.
- Krylon Looking Glass Mirror-Like spray paint. People say it’s not easy to find, and indeed I did not find it at most of my local craft and Home Depot type stores. I found it at Hobby Lobby and Ace Hardware (yeah, I forgot I bought it, and bought it twice). You can always Google it and buy it online. It’s not a bargain, but there is no substitute to get the mirrored look. Unless you do silver leafing which is also not a bargain.
- A translucent paint made for glass painting. I used Martha Stewart Glass Paint, available at craft stores like Michaels and Joann, and Plaid Online. There are several finishes – I think the translucent and transparent finishes might work better than frosted or opaque. You want to see the Looking Glass mirror paint through this colored paint. I chose the Transparent Liquid Fill in Thai Hibiscus color. Michaels had finished samples of the paints, and the transparent liquid fill had the even, sheer look I wanted. This is not the only translucent paint for glass. There is also Pebeo Vitrea 160 sold at Dick Blick. There are likely other paints too. Any translucent paint used for making stained glass might work.
- Water in a spray bottle. Some people use vinegar and water. I used only water. I didn’t want the risk of vinegar eating away at the first layer of colored paint. Plus you don’t need the vinegar to get the mottled effect in the Looking Glass paint. When people are using vinegar, they’re usually spraying the water/vinegar after the Looking Glass paint has dried and then they remove paint. If you spray only water before spraying the Looking Glass paint, the two don’t mix, sort of like “oil and water,” and you get a similar effect. You can use either technique. Here I use the “water only” way.
- Tape and paper to protect the outside of your glass.
Tutorial for DIY Colored Mercury Glass
Because this is the first time I’ve done this project and used glass paint, I did one glass candleholder first to make sure it worked. Like a test sample. I got the look I wanted, so then I did all the rest at once in a little assembly line:
STEP 1: Paint a layer of the translucent Martha Stewart Glass Paint (or Pebeo Vitrea 160, whatever you use) all over the inside of the glass. The Martha Stewart paint can be squeezed directly from the bottle so I did not use a brush. Let the glass paint dry completely before Step 2.
My paint’s directions say it should dry in an hour. But it took about 18 hours! I think I put it on a bit heavy. My paint was definitely thicker and darker than the sample at Michaels. See here a heavier and lighter application – I got better at this over time:
I squeezed the paint along the rim of the glass and then tapped the glass on the counter every which way, to get the paint to run down evenly. It’s thick paint so it runs slowly and it tended to stop before getting to the bottom. I don’t want to bang the glass too hard on a granite countertop! I tried brushing the paint on but that looked smeared. Obviously I’m not an expert at this step. If you’ve used this paint and got a good even thin result, please leave comments for readers here! All I know is, this paint did work to make colored mercury glass, but I struggled with it a bit.
Doesn’t it look like Vampire Craft Night on True Blood?
You betcha! It looked more like a Halloween DIY than Christmas!
STEP 2: It’s really important to wait until your paint is dry before this step. Some people have reported that their wet paint melted and slid down the sides of the glass. It can also smoke and stink if it’s wet.
To permanently set the glass paint, you need to bake it. Follow the instructions for your paint. The Martha Stewart paint calls for baking the glass in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Let the glass cool before the next steps.
STEP 3: Cover the outside of your glass with tape and paper. You can use blue or green painter’s tape. I used Scotch gift wrap tape because it was already nearby.
STEP 4: Do whatever you like to do to protect your surroundings from paint spray. I usually put small objects in a cardboard box, and I spray paint in our sunroom which can be closed off from the rest of our house and has a bazillion windows for ventilation. You will need ventilation because the Looking Glass spray paint is stinky!
STEP 5: Shake the Krylon Looking Glass paint can. Shake it real good! Then spritz a light sprinkling of water on the inside of your glass. Then spray a light layer of Looking Glass paint inside your glass. It’s okay to spray light – the rich layered look comes from multiple light layers of paint. Let the paint dry. It dries quickly, in a few minutes. (Okay that’s four steps but if they were all listed separate you’d see so many steps you’d never do this project!)
STEP 6: Same as Step 5 – shake your spray paint can, spritz a light spray of water, then spray a light layer of Looking Glass paint. Let it dry.
This is what my glass looks like lit after two coats of Looking Glass:
OPTIONAL STEP 7: Take a peek at the outside of your glass. If you like how it looks, you are done! Or you can spray a third layer of the Looking Glass paint. You know the drill now – shake your spray paint can. Shake it real good. Spritz a light spray of water. Spray a light layer of Looking Glass paint. Let it dry.
And now, you are done! Enjoy your color mercury glass!
Here’s a few shots of my first finished “test sample” glass – I love how it turned out:
It’s really hard to capture in a photo, but the glass has a luminescent sheen, almost like a bottle of nail polish:
A Few Tips
- The Looking Glass paint is thin and runny. Some will likely puddle on the inside bottom of your glass. This is fine, doesn’t hurt anything.
- Some DIYers dab paper towel or sponge to “pop bubbles” where the Looking Glass paint met the water drops. I didn’t do this. I guess you could. As far as I could tell, I didn’t get bubbles or anything to pop. And, from peeking at the outside, I could see the look I wanted happening so I figured, why mess with it. The water droplets dried when the paint dried.
- Votive candles turn into a puddle of liquid when they burn, and this could ruin candleholders that are painted on the inside. So even though I painted votive holders, I use only tealight candles or the fake battery-powered candles in these. If you’re painting a big candleholder like a hurricane and you’re using big pillar candles, pillar candles do not liquify so they’re okay. But they can drip and you can protect the inside of your hurricane by setting a small candle dish in the bottom of your hurricane. If your pillar candle drips, the dish should capture the dripping wax.
For something a little extra, I added a “bauble” on the votive holders, to add the dark metallic look from the Loretto Chapel inspiration photo:
What I really like about these Loretto Chapel votives is the combo of the red with the dark metal. So I added filigree pendants found in Michaels jewelry supply area, by gluing them on one side of the votive holders:
Here’s a row of red mercury glass votive holders on our fireplace mantle:
Love them!! Perfect for Christmas decorating!